Sunday, November 4, 2007

Friday at the Pentagon...

I'm honestly not sure where my stepmom got this....but it is very moving...

God Bless them All!!!!!!

And Thank you Ruth!

Friday Mornings at the Pentagon




Over the last 12 months, 1,042 soldiers,

Marines, sailors and Air Force personnel have given their lives in the terrible
duty that is war. Thousands more have come home on stretchers, horribly wounded
and facing months or years in military hospitals.

This week, I'm turning my space over to a good

friend and former roommate, Army Lt. Col. Robert Bateman, who recently
completed a yearlong tour of duty in Iraq and is now back at the

Here's Lt. Col. Bateman's account of a

little-known ceremony that fills the halls of the Army corridor of the Pentagon
with cheers, applause and many tears every Friday morning. It first appeared on
May 17 on the Weblog of media critic and pundit Eric Alterman at the Media
Matters for America Website.

It is 110 yards from the "E" ring tothe "A" ring of the Pentagon. This section of the Pentagon is newlyrenovated; the floors shine, the hallway is broad, and the lighting is bright.At this instant the entire length of the corridor is packed with officers, afew sergeants and some civilians, all crammed tightly three and four deep against the walls. There are thousands here.
This hallway, more than any other,

is the

`Army' hallway. The G3 offices line one side, G2 the other, G8 is around the
corner. All Army. Moderate conversations flow in a low buzz. Friends who
may not have seen each other for a few weeks, or a few years, spot each other,
cross the way and renew.

Everyone shifts to ensure an open path remains

down the center. The air conditioning system was not designed for this press of

This clapping is low, sustained, hearty.
odies in this area. The temperature is rising already. Nobody cares.
"10:36 hours: The clapping starts at the E-Ring. That is the outermost of
the five rings of the Pentagon and it is closest to the entrance to the building.
It is applause with a deep emotion
behind it as it moves forward in a wave down the length of the hallway.

A steady rolling wave of sound it is, moving

at the pace of the soldier in the wheelchair who marks the forward edge with
his presence. He is the first. He is missing the greater part of one leg, and
some of his wounds are still suppurating. By his age I expect that he is a
private, or perhaps a private first class.

Captains, majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels
meet his gaze and

nod as they applaud, soldier to soldier. Three years
ago when I described one of these events, those lining the hallways were
somewhat different. The applause a little wilder, perhaps in private guilt for
not having shared in the burden .. yet.

Now almost everyone lining the hallway is,
like the man in the wheel-chair, also a combat veteran. This steadies the
applause, but I think deepens the sentiment. We have all been there now. The
soldier's chair is pushed by, I believe, a full colonel. "Behind him, and
stretching the length from Rings E to A, come more of his peers, each private,
corporal, or sergeant assisted as need be by a field grade officer.

11:00 hours: Twenty-four minutes of steady
applause. My hands hurt, and I laugh to myself at how stupid that sounds in my
own head. My hands hurt. Please! Shut up and clap. For twenty-four minutes,
soldier after soldier has come down this hallway - 20, 25, 30. Fifty-three legs
come with them, and perhaps only 52 hands or arms, but down this hall came 30
solid hearts.. They pass down this corridor of officers and applause, and then
meet for a private lunch, at which they are the guests of honor, hosted by the
generals. Some are wheeled along. Some insist upon getting out of their chairs,
to march as best they can with their chin held up, down this hallway, through
this most unique audience. Some are catching handshakes and smiling like a
politician at a Fourth of July parade. More than a couple of them seem
amazed and are smiling shyly.

There are families with them as well: the
18-year-old war-bride pushing her 19-year-old husband's wheelchair and not
quite understanding why her husband is so affected by this, the boy she grew up
with, now a man, who had never shed a tear is crying; the older immigrant
Latino parents who have, perhaps more than their wounded mid-20s son, an
appreciation for the emotion given on their son's behalf. No man in that
hallway, walking or clapping, is ashamed by the silent tears on more than a few
cheeks. An Airborne Ranger wipes his eyes only to better see. A couple of
the officers in this crowd have themselves been a part of this parade in the

These are our men, broken in body they may be,
but they are our

brothers, and we welcome them home. This parade has
gone on, every single Friday, all year long, for more than four years.

Did you know that?

The media hasn't yet told the story. [and never will]

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